Taking over the iconic Rose Hotel at 309 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, friends Steed Sherriff (former Manager of the Royal Saxon, Richmond) and Ashley Cranston (former Hospitality Manager, Little Creatures Dining Hall, Fitzroy) have turned business partners to create an inspired new venue that offers a dining room, café and ‘back bar’ for music and drinking.
Opened in February, Rose Diner and Bar brings a little nostalgia to the dining room with a menu inspired by the classic simplicity of the Country Women’s Association as well as the British homeland of chef Stephen Drake. Dishes such as Welsh Rarebit Croquettes ($9), Steak Diane ($25) and Prawn Cocktail ($14) stay true to their origins but take a contemporary turn, in situ with Melbourne’s dining scene. ‘Mum’s Trifle’ ($12) and Peach Melba ($14) round off the retro menu.
UK born Stephen Drake (previously Royal Saxon, Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons) heads up the kitchen and is relishing the creation of a menu that harks back to his days working with Gary Rhodes. “The menu showcases good, honest recipes with roots in British and Australian cuisines; most importantly they have heart. There’s certainly a sense of nostalgia,” says Stephen, who will also take on several apprentices and teach skills on site such as butchering and sausage making.
Locally sourced seasonal produce is an imperative throughout the business. Milawa Chicken, Gippsland beef and Spear Creek salt-bush lamb from South Australia make up part of the carnivorous offerings, while leaves, herbs and heirlooms are sourced from Gourmet Greenhouse in the Yarra Valley and given starring roles in generous side salads. Weekly offerings will include traditional-style Sunday lunches ($24 per person) with seasonally changing dishes, and roast chook dinners for two on Tuesday nights ($32 per duo).
Upstairs at the rear of Rose Diner and Bar you’ll find Back Bar, providing a much-needed space in Port Melbourne for casual late-night drinking, canapés and live music, with a focus on jazz and swing. To the front is a private dining room and functions space offering set menus and canapé packages.
The drinks offering will focus strongly on the Little Creatures portfolio (given Cranston’s association) with prices starting at $4.50 for a pot. The wine list comprises local and European choices starting at $6.50 for a glass of house wine from Sam Miranda. Continuing the retro mantra showcased in the food menu, Back Bar will serve cocktails such as Red Rum Swizzles ($17) and Pina Coladas ($17), and a range of other cocktails served in teacups ($9).
Opened Saturday February 4, Little Rose Café is ‘out the back’ with access via Heath Street and will be a casual early morning and afternoon stop. Caffeine chasers will find coffees brewed with Syndicate beans, Jonesy’s milk and Bon Soy ($3.50) while jaffle enthusiasts can munch on Fried Green Tomatoes, Basil and Goat’s Curd, or Duck with Apple Jelly ($8), egg lovers can savour Baked Green Eggs with house-made sausage, black pudding, Greenvale bacon, baked beans and ‘fried slice’ ($17) and shake lovers can slurp on delights such as Malted Valrohna Chocolate ($9) and Coffee and Honey ($8), as well as breakfast naughties such as Bloody Marys, Breakfast Martinis and Bellinis, giving a nod to Rose Diner.
Ash and Steed see Rose Diner as a place for everyone. “We wanted to give locals a venue that they would otherwise have had to travel to another suburb for. We’re a diner in the sense that we’re a casual, affordable all-day eatery whether you need a 7am jaffle or a 10.30pm Vol-au-vent,” says Ash.
The building itself, known to many as The Rose Hotel, has seen many incarnations since it’s opening in 1867. The art deco icon retains its original shape and features but has been given a serious internal overhaul by its new owners in both look and offering. DIY renovations have been carried out by Steed and Ash, plus some time-generous family and friends, with the vision being dictated by the twos experience over a combined 30 years in the industry and their love of travel and hospitality.